Saturday, August 11, 2012

"The Kissing List," by Stephanie Reents

Is it my age that makes me come close to disliking the stories and their characters in “The Kissing List: Fiction” (interlocking short stories) (Hogarth, 2012), by Stephanie Reents? Although well written, the stories seem like so many others I have read about smart, well-educated, urban twenty-somethings stumbling their way through life, full of angst, having lots of sex and doing lots of drinking, but not seeming to really enjoy even those pursuits. The characters are not unlikeable but not particularly likeable either. Some of the characters blur; their lives are so similar and so intertwined. I am sure that even for these privileged young people, Reents’s portrayal of the disappointment and difficulty involved in searching for meaningful work and fulfilling relationships is accurate. I also suspect that – except for the unfortunate young woman with cancer – these characters will land on their feet and lead comfortable lives. It is not that I don’t like reading about young people. I do. I enjoy reading about characters of all ages. But this particular subset of young people has been done, and done, and done by young writers. Although each book, including this one, has its own twists and its own rewards, the problem is still a sort of wearying predictability. (P.S. I confess that I skipped one story; when I saw that it featured a mouse, my rodent phobia kicked in, and I thought “No, I just don’t want to read this." So it is possible that this is the one story that would change everything I have written above. But I doubt it.)

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